I know that sounds crazy, but think about it. How can you ever really know good times without ever experiencing the bad times? If you never experienced pain, sorrow, and hurt, you would never know to recognize good health, prosperity, and joy. Not to mention that learning to get through the hard times builds character and teaches you the courage and strength you possess. We have been dealt our share of hard times and I’m certain they are far from over, but instead of being angry about them, I’ve learned to be thankful.
So, wait. You’re thankful that your child has a genetic disorder? Well….yes and no.
Every mother of a child with special needs has wished their child’s syndrome away. No child should ever have to suffer or fight for life the way our children do. We learn to adapt, we step up and care for our children, wear the badge of “supermom” as both an accolade and a curse, and we love our children fiercely. The sad truth is that we can’t simply wish the syndrome away or hope for a magic cure. So in that respect, no, no I’m not thankful that Braxton has a syndrome. I’m not thankful that he has significant delays. I’m not thankful that he can’t verbalize how he feels, what he wants, or what he needs. I’m not thankful for the hours we spend in the doctor’s office, in therapy, or on the phone with insurance companies. No child and no family should ever have to do those things.
HOWEVER, I AM thankful for what my son’s syndrome has taught me. Thankful for what he has taught me about myself, life, parenting, and truly unconditional love. I’m thankful for the people we have met and the connections we have made. I’m thankful for the love and support we have found in the special needs community. I feel that I’m so much more thankful about everything than I would be if Braxton was ‘typical.’
The hard times have taught me patience. I’ve learned to give Braxton the time he needs to figure things out, and while watching him instead of rushing him I see the wonder in his eyes, the intent with which he tries to accomplish a task, and the pride he has in himself when he does it all on his own. I’ve learned to be more patient with others as well. I’ve not perfected this yet, but I do notice that I lose my temper far less than I did before Braxton. Sure, there are times that I just snap when I shouldn’t, but I recognize it and try to do better.
The hard times have taught me gratitude. I’ve learned to truly appreciate the little things and recognize that it’s the little things that mean so much to us. I understand just how much work it takes for a child to learn to sit on their own, stand, roll over, pick up a cookie, put a toy in a bin, empty a toy box, wave – the list goes on. EVERYTHING my child has done, he had to work for. He had to be taught. Hours of therapy were spent teaching him to do things many kids simply figure out on their own. Braxton took THREE small bites of a cookie and I was so overly ecstatic and grateful for this incredible accomplishment. Something I would not have experienced if it were not for the hard times. I wouldn’t know THAT kind of joy and gratitude if Braxton was ‘typical.’
The hard times have brought my family closer together. Joseph and I learned to really work together to care for Braxton. Watching him hold Braxton, make him laugh, or simply watch him with pride has made me fall even more in love with him. There is just something about seeing the man you love be an incredible father. We have had our share of hard times, but we have come out stronger every time. Our immediate families have also been more involved and learned to care for Braxton and spend time with us whenever possible. Aileen has been an amazing big sister and now that Braxton is more mobile she is truly enjoying “showing him the ropes.” Seeing the two of them together warms my heart.
The hard times have taught me courage. Never in a million years did I think 1) that I would have a child with special needs and 2) that I would be able to share our experience in such a public fashion. I recognize the courage I had to build to be able to put our story out there for all of you to read. The courage it took to share our experience with media outlets. The courage it takes to stand in front of a room full of strangers telling our story hoping that even ONE person finds THEIR OWN courage to fight for what their child needs. The courage it takes to persistently call a doctor because you just KNOW something is not right and they aren’t listening. The courage to question a doctor and ask them to take a deeper look.
The hard times have taught me about faith. I’ve always held true to my faith and the values I learned growing up, but I took a step back some time ago. It’s been about a year now since I’ve gone back to Church and pulled my faith closer to me. I see the greater picture and I know the power of prayer. I know God and see Him at work in my life each and every day.
The hard times have led me to find my purpose. My life is not at all what I imagined for myself, but I know it’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I KNOW that I’m supposed to be sharing my story with you and reaching out to others to walk with them on this journey. I can’t tell you the joy and gratitude I feel when another mom reaches out to me to say that one of our experiences helped her through an equally hard time. Or when a mom reaches out for help to find answers or asks where to turn and I’m able to answer her or direct her to the right place. The thanks she gives me for listening when no one else would makes me feel good about myself and makes me want to do more. I want to pay it forward for all the help I’ve had along the journey. I enjoy helping people. I enjoy listening to their stories and finding the similarities in our journey so that they don’t feel alone. I know that this isn’t what I had planned, but it’s where I belong.
The hard times have taken me through every emotion possible, but I’ve learned to stay strong and hold my head high. I’ve learned that it’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to cry, sometimes for no reason at all. I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever imagined.
I’m thankful that I’ve seen hard times because I now know a joy that I could have never experienced otherwise. Hard times are not the end of the world. They are opportunities to learn what you are made of and teach you to be thankful when the good times come your way.